Piaget’s Golden Era
“Piaget time…. measured only in gold!” This advertising slogan from the late 1970s is as current today as ever. Gold is the company’s metal of reference. It gives a distinctive shimmer and sparkle to the precious or hard stones used by Piaget in jewellery and watchmaking. And above all, it is crafted in the workshops of the Manufacture according to methods that are very similar to those used in Haute Couture.
The House of Piaget has always been focused on preserving unique skills in goldsmithing, notably by training new generations of artisans who pick up gestures passed down through the centuries on the workbench. These workshops have thus become living conservatories where exceptional pieces are still manufactured.
The jewellery-chainmaking profession has thus been preserved at Piaget for three generations. Every step in the production of Piaget’s famous gold bracelets is manually mastered by these exceptional artisans.
This collection is a vivid demonstration of the quality of gold craftsmanship at Piaget and presents several types of exceptionally delicate links – as in the case of bracelets with a ‘palace’ decor which makes the outside part of the bracelet look like an iridescent ribbon which some compare to wild silk. The inside of the bracelet on the other hand reveals hundreds of links interwoven with each other with a degree of precision that give this “fabric” such a supple feel. Emblematic of Piaget’s work, this mesh is not merely used for the bracelets on certain watches, but also for a pink gold necklace with turquoise beads and marquise-cut diamonds.
Several cuff watches presented in this collection feature hammered gold techniques that give the metal a very powerful presence. Cabled gold is also used both for sautoir necklace creations as well as certain rings. Certain High Jewellery pieces were created using a base of gold worked according to the chain mail technique, which gives the metal the look of a precious, sparkling fabric.
Extremely Sparkling, a profusion of diamonds
Capturing the light and redirecting it outwards in order to infuse jewellery with exceptional brightness and sparkle, is, after colour, the other key style characteristic of this collection. And with this in mind, diamonds have been used extensively, as centre stones in the bracelets, necklaces, rings or as earring motifs, as well as being present in the surroundings, sometimes set as a double row of settings on watches, featuring brilliant, marquise or baguette cuts.
One of the star in the 2014 collection is a necklace on which marquise-cut diamonds frame two magnificent emeralds, and which offers two wearing options. It gently encircles the neck of the woman wearing it, while one of its extremities dances on her back and may even be detached for a lighter look.
Another is a bracelet consisting of onyx links set with diamonds. The central motif is a six-carat portrait-cut diamond. Previously used as to cover miniature portraits of loved ones, these very fine, very wide and very pure diamonds were a substantial technical achievement for the cutters. The specific nature of this six-carat portrait-cut diamond lies in its entirely flat emerald shape. The House has chosen to give this gem particular depth by creating a set of polished gold facets beneath it. This bracelet is at the crossroads of jewellery and watchmaking. It is a mystery jewel. The diamond lifts up to reveal a ‘secret’ watch whose dial is made of black onyx.
Two exceptional setting techniques have been used to provide maximum sparkle from the diamonds. The first, perfected by Piaget in the 1960s, is known as jupon or petticoat setting and is named after the petticoats that formerly served to make Haute Couture dresses sway. This is particularly used with baguette-cut diamonds that are held by prongs and arranged in one or two rows, in order to create the appearance of a moving piece of fabric. The perpetual undulation of the stones creates a stunning wealth of shimmering reflections. This technique has been taken to extremes with the creation of a ring.
An even more brilliant setting technique enabled the creation of a ‘col Claudine’ sautoir-watch on which diamonds reign supreme. Surrounding a central two-carat brilliant-cut gem are hundreds of marquise, brilliant, pear or princess-cut stones. Each chaton (or stone setting) is designed especially for the stone that surrounds it. And each is connected to the next by an incredibly delicate link. This technique makes it possible to use several very different diamond cuts on the same piece, while highlighting each stone. This necklace is also one of the emblematic creations in the collection. Consisting entirely of diamonds, it is also a long sautoir necklace thanks to a pendant chain also made of diamonds which flows from the centre of this jewellery creation down to the waist of the woman wearing it. This doubly precious jewel also lies on the frontier between watch and jewellery making, since a timepiece encased in a 26 mm openworked ball hangs from the end of the sautoir necklace chain.
Marquise-cut diamonds, a Piaget signature
More than 1,500 marquise-cut diamonds were used to create this particularly sparkling collection. For months, Piaget’s gemmology department has sourced these stones from around the world. The marquise-cut gives diamonds a very particular sparkle. Radiating from the centre, the fiery sparkle of the stone shine towards the two ends of the navette. The use of this cut has been a classic in Piaget High Jewellery right from the very beginning. One of the oldest jewellery sets among the historical collection assembled by Piaget is composed of a diamond and emerald necklace and ear pendants dating from the 1970s was already set solely with marquise-cut diamonds.
This diamond cut, which has been present for more than half a century in Piaget’s creations, finds its most beautiful expression in the 2014 collection. Several dozen High Jewellery creations have been created from marquise-cut diamonds whose tapered shape gives this kind of diamond a very particular movement. It enables the juxtaposition of stones without making the jewel heavy, or makes it possible to surround strong coloured stones with exceptional sparkle, such as this sapphire set in the centre of a pendant on a necklace of marquise-cut diamonds. Below the sapphire are drop beads set with smaller diamonds and marquise-cut diamonds endowing the jewellery creation with exceptional freedom of movement.
According to tradition, the marquise cut was created at the request of the king of France, Louis XV (1770-1774) in tribute to his favourite, the Marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764). A patron of the arts and a highly elegant Parisian lady, Madame de Pompadour loved precious stones and had an extensive collection. The so-called marquise-cut with 55 facets was in fact an optimised version of an older “navette”-cut that featured a similar shape but was less perfect.
Madame de Pompadour is often considered to be one of the patrons of luxury in France and is known for having introduced many innovations to the work of 18th century jewellers. She adored hard stones and often had them engraved before using them in a bracelet clasp. She also loved colourful jewellery. In her day, in the mid-18th century, it was common to place ‘paillons’ or little pieces of metal covered in colour at the base of settings in order to give diamonds a pink, blue or green shade.
Marquise-cut diamonds, hard stones, colour, cuff watches and sautoirs are amongst the most powerful symbols of the 2014 Piaget collection, which would doubtless have found favour with Madame de Pompadour.
Most of the 125 creations presented at the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires are set with precious stones distinguished by remarkable carat weights. They mark the continuity of Piaget’s presence in the world of High Jewellery. Watches and jewellery, which sometimes combine to become one, are the symbols of this freedom in the exploration of shapes and colours which has always been present in the minds of the Piaget designers. The 1960s and 70s were some of their most innovative years – and the same is true of 2014.